England players to return to training next week

England players will begin individual training next week in the first step to returning to action after the coronavirus shutdown.

Bowlers will have staggered sessions at various county grounds with a coach, physio and, where possible, a strength and conditioning coach in attendance.

Other players will return to practice two weeks later.

“These are very tentative steps to returning to play,” said England director of cricket Ashley Giles.

There will be no cricket in England or Wales until at least 1 July, a shutdown which has meant the postponement of the Test series against West Indies, which was scheduled for June.

  • West Indies players ‘very nervous’ about travelling to England
  • Some anxieties about return to action – Buttler

With the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) in talks with Cricket West Indies (CWI) over the rescheduling of those three Tests, Giles said the return to training coincides with a seven-week build-up to what could be the start of the series on 8 July.

About 30 players – centrally contracted and from the county system – will be invited to train at 11 venues. The players and venues will be confirmed on Monday. The ECB will also use some county coaches and staff.

On Wednesday, the government issued guidelines on how elite athletes were able to return to training, with further guidance on greater contact between players and coaches due in the coming weeks.

In line with government advice, the ECB will implement the following protocols:

  • Each individual will observe strict social-distancing
  • Players and support staff will arrive in training kit ready to practise
  • Players and support staff will have their temperatures taken before they are allowed to take part
  • Medical staff will wear personal protective equipment (PPE) to treat injuries. The PPE will be sourced and funded by the ECB
  • Dressing rooms and other venue facilities will be closed

England’s women will return to training in late June, while the ECB is expecting to provide an update on when the 18 first-class counties can return to training by the end of May.

“This first phase should be a safer environment than going about daily life,” said Giles.

“I’m not making light of this, but there are risks every time you go outside the house. We need to mitigate as many of the risks around the spreading of this virus as we possibly can.”

It is likely that any international cricket that is played this summer – England are also due to host Pakistan, Australia and Ireland – will be played behind closed doors, perhaps in a ‘bio-secure’ environment.

Previous discussions have involved the prospect of players remaining within the team environment for the duration of the summer in order to minimise the risk of infection.

However, Giles said this is not “realistic” given the various home circumstances of the players. For example, the wife of Test captain Joe Root is expecting their second child.

“We are going to have to find ways where we can get players out of their environment,” said Giles.

“Our players will do anything they can to get this going, but it isn’t realistic to expect them to be in a bubble for 10 weeks.”

On Wednesday, CWI chief executive Johnny Grave said some West Indies players would be “very nervous” about travelling to England.

“We are all nervous, aren’t we?” Giles said. “I went shopping last week and it’s a really weird feeling when you go out. You are almost threatened by anyone who comes near you. That will change over time.

“It can be quite scary but we are doing everything we possibly can to answer all of the West Indies’ questions.”

  • Play crowd noise at games behind closed doors – Archer

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Tottenham winger must ‘have a really long look at himself’ as third transfer predicted

Tottenham youngster Jack Clarke “needs to have a really long look at himself”, according to former Leeds United forward Noel Whelan. Clarke joined Tottenham from Leeds last summer for a fee in the region of £10million. The winger was immediately sent back to Elland Road on loan but his deal was cancelled in December after making just three appearances in the first half of the season.

Clarke, 19, then joined QPR on loan in January but failed to make a start in the Championship before football was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Whelan reckons Tottenham will send Clarke out on loan for a third time next season but he has warned the England under-20 international his career is “dwindling away”.

Whelan says the teenager has a point to prove at whichever club he joins.

“His progression has been very slow. We saw the peak of that at Leeds United,” Whelan told Football Insider.

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“Things happened very quickly for him. He went to a big club for a big amount of money and, in Tottenham’s eyes, he is one for the future.

“He has not done it at QPR, they were disappointed and wanted more. He has a lot of thinking to do.

“Jack is miles off the Tottenham side. He will go out on loan next year but to be successful, and be the player we thought he was going to be, he needs to have a really long look at himself.

“He needs to get the bit between his teeth and prove a point to people.

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“At the moment, he is dwindling away. People have forgotten about him.

“There is a player there but at the moment he is a bench player.”

Meanwhile, former Tottenham striker Darren Bent has backed his old side to snap up Bournemouth winger Ryan Fraser on a free transfer.

“It would be a great signing and if you can get him on a free as well, wow, what a signing that would be,” Bent said.

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  • Tottenham tipped to sell Argentina international due to wages

“If I’m Spurs I’m going all out to get that type of player but don’t make that your be-all and end-all.

“We saw Manchester United do that with Daniel James and yeah, he did very, very well but I’m sure United weren’t expecting him to do as well as he did.

“If Spurs can get him in on a free, that’s a very, very good start.”

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Aston Villa could be without two players if coronavirus risk is high

‘There’s a certain risk attached to the return to training’: Aston Villa manager Dean Smith warns a medical issue and a high-risk relative could mean his side are missing two players if football is played with coronavirus fears still high

  • Dean Smith says Aston Villa could be without two players when football returns
  • A medical issue and a high-risk family member mean they will not be able to play
  • Villa are second from bottom in the Premier League but have a game in hand
  • Smith insists he has been grateful for the extra time he’s had with his players 
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Aston Villa manager Dean Smith has warned his side could be without two of their players if the Premier League season gets up and running again because of health and safety fears.

Villa currently sit second from bottom in the Premier League but a win in their game in hand would lift them out of the bottom three, meaning every point will be essential if football returns.

But Smith, who has been in charge since 2018 and led Villa back to the top flight last season, has warned his squad may have to play the rest of the season without two players due to a medical issue and a high-risk family member. 

Dean Smith has warned Aston Villa could be without two players if football returns too quickly

Speaking to The Football Show on Sky Sports, Smith said: ‘Everybody wants to get back into training but they also want to see what the medical protocols are first.

‘There’s a certain risk attached to the return to training for all players and I think they want to make sure they tick the boxes so it’s safe to do so.  

‘We’ve got a player who is asthmatic, we’ve got a player whose mother-in-law is in remission and living with the family. You have to be very careful, certainly the transmission knows no boundaries.

‘From what I’m told, we have to be led by the government at the moment. There’s a lot of hypothetical questions out there at the moment but until we get the guidance from the government about how they want to move forward out of this lockdown there are a lot more questions than there are answers at this moment. 

‘The players’ health and safety is paramount and if they’re not comfortable to return then you have to return without them, when it’s safe to do so. We have to listen to our players, we have to listen to their concerns.’ 

Villa currently sit second from bottom in the Premier League but do have a game in hand

The former Brentford manager also insisted Villa are keen to complete the domestic season and has been grateful for the time the current situation has allowed him to have with his players.

‘I’ve been having regular chats with the coaching staff about how we adapt to the new situation, what it might look like,’ he added. ‘But it’s also given me time to review and reflect on what we’ve done so far.

‘I’ve managed to do a video chat with each individual player and review their season so far, how they think they’ve done and how I think they’ve done, and we’re having regular group chats now.

‘Nobody wants to have this pandemic but it has given us the opportunity to review where we’re at and reflect on what we’ve done so far.

‘I’d never get a chance during the season to have a chat with my players for an hour, just on their season so far, what they need to improve on, how I feel they’ve done. Or to go back and watch every single game.’ 




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Titans decline option for former No. 5 pick Corey Davis

Corey Davis entered the NFL as a big-play threat, and he still has one season left to prove he can be one in Tennessee.

The Titans have declined to pick up the fifth-year option on Davis’ rookie contract, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported.

Selected fifth overall in the 2017 draft, Davis came from Western Michigan as the 2016 Mid-American Conference Offensive Player of the Year and the all-time receiving yards leader in major college football. Davis packed with him the promise of stretching the field for a Titans team that desperately needed a receiver of that caliber.

He’s struggled to do so in his first three seasons. Davis’ best campaign came in his only full season of action (2018), in which he caught 65 passes for 891 yards and four touchdowns. His long reception of 51 yards offered a peek at what evaluators saw in him before the 2017 draft.

2019 saw Davis post his best yards-per-catch average (14) of his career, but he found himself in a receiving corps that included a new emergent star: A.J. Brown. The rookie finished with 52 receptions for 1,051 receiving yards and eight touchdowns and was a legitimate Pro Bowl candidate who didn’t end up making the team. He did, however, make the Pro Football Writers Association’s All-Rookie Team, recognition Brown undoubtedly deserved.

Davis, meanwhile, posted a line of 43 receptions for 601 yards and two touchdowns in 15 games.

There’s room for both receivers on Tennessee’s roster, especially with slot receiver Adam Humphries helping balance out all levels of the field. But with a fifth-year option that would nearly double his 2020 cap hit of $8.17 million, Tennessee found it wiser to wait for Davis to prove his value on a potential free-agent market before locking themselves into a 2021 rate well into the mid-teens.

The Titans though did pick up the fifth-year option for cornerback Adoree Jackson, per Pelissero.

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Anthony Joshua vs Tyson Fury talks begin over fight in Saudi Arabia

Talks have begun over a unification fight between Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury in Saudi Arabia, according to reports.

Fury won the WBC heavyweight title by beating Deontay Wilder in seven rounds in Las Vegas in February, while Joshua reclaimed his WBA (Super), IBF, WBO, and IBO belts in December when he convincingly beat Andy Ruiz Jr in their rematch.

Fury is scheduled to fight Wilder for a third time as the Bronze Bomber has already said that he wants to invoke his rematch clause.

But according to ESPN, Fury’s management team, MTK Global, are now in negotiations over a blockbuster fight with Joshua and are awaiting an offer from Saudi Arabia to host the event.

The report claims that the offer from Saudi Arabia will need to be large enough to cover Wilder’s step-aside payment.

However, Wilder’s team are adamant that a third fight between Fury and the Bronze Bomber will go ahead.

‘As far as we’re concerned, the next fight [for Wilder] is the third fight [with Fury],’ Wilder’s advisor, Shelly Finkel, told ESPN.

Meanwhile, Joshua’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, is uncertain if it is possible to stage the unification fight this year due to the coronavirus outbreak.

‘The conversations between myself and MTK are that we’ve had an approach,’ said Hearn.

‘We’ve had a number of approaches from territories to stage that fight.

‘So the only discussions at the moment are where this fight takes place, and we don’t even know when this fight could take place.

‘We’re certainly open to have discussions about the possibility of this happening this year or in the next fight.

‘There’s more chance at the moment that the bigger money could come next year because we don’t even know if we can do live crowds in November, December.’

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Murray leaps out of his seat to celebrate winning Virtual Madrid Open

Delighted Andy Murray leaps out of his seat to celebrate winning Virtual Madrid Open in front of devastated David Goffin after clinching tie-break

  • Andy Murray defeated David Goffin 7-5 in tie-break following tense final
  • Former British No 1 had earlier in the day been given spot in the final despite loss
  • Diego Schwarzman had beaten Brit but claimed it was only via technical glitches
  • Murray received £130,000 to donate after his victory in the Virtual Madrid Open 

It might not have the usual challenges presented by the clay courts but Andy Murray has proven he can be just as devastating behind a controller as well as a racket by winning the Virtual Madrid Open.

The Brit triumphed in the final of the tournament having seen off David Goffin 7-5 in a tie-break, leaping off his chair with delight after landing yet another title.

Goffin could only bury his head in his hands as he watched the Brit return an unbeatable crosscourt forehand to secure victory.

Andy Murray punches the air in delight (right) after winning the Virtual Madrid Open

Murray  said afterwards: ‘Of all the matches I played, that felt like a proper match, we were a similar level.

‘It was good. I enjoyed it, there’s not much we can do just now, we spend most of the days indoors and can’t get out much so it was a fun thing to do.’

Murray’s success on the virtual court via the Playstation game Tennis World Tour came despite losing earlier in the day in the semi-finals to Diego Schwarzman.

However their last four encounter was plagued by technical issues and bizarre glitches that the Argentine felt were too unfair on the former British and world No 1 and thus offered his place in the final to the 32-year-old.

‘I don’t deserve to be in the final,’ Schwartzman told Murray. ‘You play the final. If you’re in Europe the transmission is much better because of the internet.’

Murray saw off some competitors along the way, even defeating the ‘King of Clay’ Rafael Nadal in the group stage.

Murray’s crosscourt winner saw him clinch the title as he leaps off his seat to celebrate while David Goffin buries his head in his hands

Murray’s prize for winning the tournament is £130,000 to give to those most affected by the shutdown of the ATP Tour

After his comprehensive dismantling of Zverev in the quarter-finals, Murray joked he was just too good for the opposition.

The Brit laughed off mischievous accusations from tournament organiser Feliciano Lopez, delivered with a smile, that his rivals were claiming the competition was being fixed in his favour.

‘I know it looks that way but I’m just much better than the other guys,’ said Murray.

The tournament was part of a charity initiative that will donate 50,000 euros (£43,600) to the Madrid Food Bank to help reduce the social impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The winner of each tournament will get 150,000 euros (about £130,000) from which they will be able to decide how much they donate to their colleagues on the tour who have been worst affected by the sport’s shutdown.

 

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Nigel Pearson strikes a deal to stay on as Watford manager

Nigel Pearson strikes a deal to stay on as Watford manager beyond his contract until the end of the season

  • Nigel Pearson will stay on as Watford manager until the end of this season
  • His previous short-term contract was due to expire at the end of May
  • Pearson has transformed Watford, although they are still in a relegation battle 

Nigel Pearson has struck an agreement with Watford to stay in charge at least until the end of a season which is now set to stretch beyond his short-term contract.

Pearson signed a deal until the end of May when he was appointed in December with the team stranded at the bottom of the Premier League having won only once in 15 games.

Under his control, Watford have been transformed, winning five times and becoming the first side this season to beat champions-elect Liverpool in the Premier League.

Nigel Pearson has agreed to stay on as Watford manager until the end of the current season

Pearson’s short-term contract signed in December was due to expire at the end of May

They had climbed to 17th by the time football was suspended for the coronavirus outbreak, just outside the relegation zone on goal difference although still very much locked in a fight to survive with nine fixtures remaining.

Pearson, 56, has proved popular with the players and fans at Vicarage Road and, back in the top flight for the first time since he left Leicester in 2015, has re-established his own credentials at the top level.

He enjoys a good working relationship with owner Gino Pozzo and the board and there is an option built into his original deal to extend his contract for another season if both parties agree.

This is not expected to be considered, however, until Watford are sure which division they will be in next season. If they are relegated Pearson may find other clubs try to lure him away. 




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F1 chief Carey reveals plans to start new season in Austria on July 5

‘We are confident with the progress of our plans to begin this summer’: Formula One CEO Chase Carey announces plans to salvage new season by starting in Austria on July 5 and finishing in December… just hours after French Grand Prix was called off

  • Formula One is planning to start its 2020 season on July 5 in Austria
  • The announcement comes after the French Grand Prix was called off on Monday
  • However, F1 chief Carey is optimistic racing will take place at the Red Bull Ring 
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Formula One is planning to start its 2020 season on July 5 in Austria after the French Grand Prix became the 10th race this year to be postponed or cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision to cancel the race at Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet on June 28 seemed increasingly unavoidable after French President Emmanuel Macron placed a ban on mass gatherings in the country until at least mid-July.

But F1 chief Chase Carey is optimistic of beginning the campaign a week later at Austria’s Red Bull Ring and holding between 15 and 18 races before the curtain closer in Abu Dhabi in December.

Formula One has announced that it is planning to start its 2020 season on July 5 in Austria

July 5

Season starts: Austria

July-August

Races will be held across Europe

September-October

Eurasia and Asia will host races

October-November

Races take place in Asia and Americas

December

F1 calendar finishes in Middle East 

Carey, though, does anticipate the first few races to be held behind closed doors, with the British Grand Prix telling its fans on Monday morning that its event on July 19 will be held without spectators.

Carey said on Formula One’s website: ‘Although this morning it was announced that the French Grand Prix, due to take place in late June, will not be going ahead, we are now increasingly confident with the progress of our plans to begin our season this summer.

‘We’re targeting a start to racing in Europe through July, August and beginning of September, with the first race taking place in Austria on 3-5 July weekend.

‘September, October and November, would see us race in Eurasia, Asia and the Americas, finishing the season in the Gulf in December with Bahrain before the traditional finale in Abu Dhabi, having completed between 15-18 races.

‘We will publish our finalised calendar as soon as we possibly can. All of our plans are obviously subject to change as we still have many issues to address and all of us are subject to the unknowns of the virus.

F1 chief Chase Carey is optimistic racing will take place at Austria’s Red Bull Ring in July

‘We expect the early races to be without fans but hope fans will be part of our events as we move further into the schedule.

‘We still have to work out many issues like the procedures for the teams and our other partners to enter and operate in each country.

‘The health and safety of all involved will continue to be priority one and we will only go forward if we are confident we have reliable procedures to address both risks and possible issues.’

While a number of events have been postponed, French Grand Prix managing director Eric Boullier said his focus is already on next year’s race.

He said: ‘Given the evolution of the situation linked to the spread of the Covid-19 virus, the French Grand Prix takes note of the decisions announced by the French State making it impossible to maintain our event.

‘The eyes of the GIP Grand Prix de France – Le Castellet are already turning towards the summer of 2021 in order to offer our spectators an even more unprecedented event at the heart of the Region Sud.’

For the moment, the British Grand Prix will go ahead but Silverstone’s owners said that a race ‘under normal conditions is just not going to be possible’ in announcing a decision to keep supporters away from the event.

Silverstone managing director Stuart Pringle said in a letter: ‘I am extremely disappointed to tell you that we are unable to stage this year’s British Grand Prix in front of the fans at Silverstone.

The announcement came hours after the French Grand Prix was called off on Monday

F1 RACES POSTPONED SO FAR 

‘We have left this difficult decision for as long as possible, but it is abundantly clear given the current conditions in the country and the Government requirements in place now and for the foreseeable future, that a grand prix under normal conditions is just not going to be possible.

‘Our obligations to protect the health and safety of everyone involved in preparing and delivering the event, our volunteer marshals and race makers, and of course, you, the amazing fans, means that this is the best, safest and only decision we could make.

‘We have consistently said that should we find ourselves in this position we will support Formula One as they seek to find alternative ways to enable F1 racing to take place this year.

‘Following this weekend’s news from the department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport we are now working with them on the viability of an event behind closed doors.’

To date three Grands Prix have been cancelled – Australian, Monaco, French – and seven postponed – Bahrain, Vietnam, Chinese, Dutch, Spanish, Azerbaijan, Canadian.




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Roy and Crawley endorse plan to complete county season in Abu Dhabi

England batsmen Jason Roy and Zak Crawley endorse proposal to complete county season in Abu Dhabi between October this year and January 2021

  • The ECB announced on Friday they will delay the 2020 season until at least July 1 
  • Abu Dhabi Cricket hosted Pakistan’s home matches from 2009 to last year 
  • Jason Roy and Zak Crawley are behind the proposal for the autumn and winter 
  • Crawley even suggested a alternative regional method to complete the season 

England batsmen Jason Roy and Zak Crawley have thrown their weight behind a proposal which would see the county season completed in Abu Dhabi.

The ECB announced on Friday they will delay the 2020 season until at least July 1, leaving just three months to complete the remaining nine County Championship rounds, the Twenty20 Blast and the new Hundred competition.

Abu Dhabi Cricket is set to offer their facilities, which hosted Pakistan’s home matches from 2009 to last year, to complete as much of the season between October and January next year.

England batsman Jason Roy has thrown his weight behind a season in Abu Dhabi

The ECB have delayed the 2020 season until at least July 1, including the Hundred competition

But Roy believes Abu Dhabi Cricket’s facilities could offer a suitable alternative in the winter

Surrey batsman Roy said: ‘It’s a pretty good spot! I think if you’re going to play some competitive cricket, you’ve got to play some competitive cricket. No matter where you’re playing, the boys would be champing at the bit to play.

‘It’s a left-field idea, but it sounds like a good one.’

And his Kent counterpart Crawley, whose England career began in South Africa last winter, added: ‘I’d have no qualms about playing in Abu Dhabi, as long as there was a safe way of doing it.

Zak Crawley also said he had no qualms about playing there provided that it was safe to do so

‘If we were playing in Abu Dhabi, it would obviously mean we hadn’t got enough cricket in in the summer, so I’m sure everyone would want to be playing. I can only assume that’d be the scenario if we only have a month and a half of the season.

‘I’d be more than happy to play in Abu Dhabi.’

Crawley also highlighted an alternative method for completing the campaign, saying: ‘They’re talking about doing a regional option now that it’s such a short season – Kent would play Surrey, Essex would play Sussex, that’s what we’ve been hearing. But it would be tough to play half a championship season like that.

If we do play four-day cricket, I think it would look something like that.’

Crawley also highlighted an alternative regional method for completing the campaign

 

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What’s it like to go through the NFL draft?

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“You go through a mixed bag of emotions. You’re excited, anxious, frustrated. Then once you get that call the disappointment, the anguish, the nerves all just disappear.”

That’s how Menelik Watson describes the NFL draft, yet those words could well have been uttered by fellow British-born players Osi Umenyiora and Jack Crawford.

Umenyiora could even add “relaxed” as, when he entered the 2003 draft, he was enjoying it like one of the 11m fans that will be watching the 2020 draft this weekend.

Having not been invited to the NFL Combine, where the best college players showcase their talents before the draft, Umenyiora was convinced he would not get picked until the fourth or fifth round and told his family and friends not to join him until day two.

So the former defensive end was home alone in Atlanta, “laying on the couch, enjoying the whole experience, seeing who the teams picked and which schools they were from.”

“Then all of a sudden my phone rings,” he told BBC Sport. “It’s my agent, he says ‘I think something crazy’s happening. I think the New York Giants are about to draft you’.

“Two minutes later I get a call from the Giants and I watch them go up to announce my name. It was surreal. I had no clue they were going to pick me.”

Umenyiora was selected late in the second round, 56th overall, but draft day was far from enjoyable for Watson.

  • NFL draft 2020: From Vegas to video calls – how will virtual draft play out?

‘It was like a fairytale, then I fell back to reality’

Watson’s journey was one of the stories of the 2013 draft. After an impoverished upbringing in Manchester, he moved to the US on a basketball scholarship and just two years after switching to American football entered the NFL draft.

And it wasn’t just media that were interested. The offensive tackle was invited to the Combine and “virtually all” 32 teams interviewed him.

The draft took place at New York’s Radio City Music Hall and Watson and his family were invited to the green room, where the top prospects wait backstage for their name to be called. And they waited, and waited.

“I had teams saying ‘if he goes here, we’ll take you there’,” said Watson. “Baltimore Ravens had the 32nd pick and told me ‘if you’re still there, we’ll definitely take you’.”

They didn’t. The first round was done. So instead of being presented with his new team’s hat and jersey in front of thousands of fans, Watson had to head back home to Atlanta to “wait his turn” in the second round.

“I didn’t really want to be in New York, to walk across the stage and shake the commissioner’s hand,” he added. “It turned into this big spectacle – I’m there in my suit, my family had come over from England. It was like living in a fairytale for a moment, then I fell back to reality.

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“It did hurt. It felt like we’d gone to all this effort for nothing. My family were bewildered, they didn’t really know what was going on. After the 32nd pick was announced, we all got up and walked straight out. There were no camera crews following us, no drama. I just wanted to go home.”

Watson treated the next day like any other. He and his brother went for a workout, grabbed a sandwich, and were driving home when Watson got a call. With the 42nd pick, he was selected by the Oakland Raiders, where he’d see an old rival, Jack Crawford.

“I’d actually forgotten the draft had restarted,” said Watson. “But I was happy to feel valued again. All the other emotions just went away.”

The number one rule – text, don’t call!

Watson and Crawford actually played basketball against each other in England before Crawford left for the US even earlier, aged just 16. After two weeks he wanted to go back home, but his new friend Peter Dandrea asked his family if Crawford could stay for a week.

That week turned into three years, during which the Londoner also switched to American football. Come 2012, he was back at the Dandreas’ New Jersey home during the draft.

The Raiders were one of just three teams to speak with Crawford at the Combine so he “didn’t really follow” the first two days. On day three, as the fourth round went by, he started to “feel more pressure”.

“It was tense,” he said. “I remember thinking ‘this is it, this is the biggest moment of my life. Will I get drafted or not?’ You see other guys go before you and at one point I didn’t want to watch anymore because I thought I wasn’t going to get drafted.”

Then he got a call. But it wasn’t from a team, it was one of his mates. “I was not happy,” said Crawford. “I was like ‘man, what the heck are you calling me for?’ The number one rule during the draft is text, don’t call!”

The defensive end didn’t have to wait much longer, the Raiders picked him in the fifth round, 158th overall.

“It was a great feeling,” he said. “I’d put a lot of work into it and it all came down to that one point. In the space of 10 seconds, I went from one of the most anxious moments in my life to the most relieved.

“And it was great to share it with the Dandreas. It was something I’ll never forget. They were so excited for me. They took me in and treated me like one of their own so I consider them family, and I’m still best friends with Pete.”

‘I had to perform, I knew I could mess it up for everybody else’

Umenyiora, Watson and Crawford said the celebrations were short-lived though. They knew that the real work was about to begin.

Many draft picks fail to live up to expectations while undrafted players still manage to get signed and enjoy a successful NFL career, and Umenyiora was determined not to become a ‘bust’.

“I was happy to get drafted but I soon felt a tremendous amount of pressure,” said the 38-year-old. “I was like ‘I went high, man. I need to go out there and live up to that now’.

“I’d come from a small school (Troy) and I knew I could mess it up for everybody else from a small school so I had to go out there and perform.”

That he did, winning two Super Bowls with the Giants, while Watson and Crawford, both 31, have spent longer than average in the NFL. Crawford signed a one-year deal with the Tennessee Titans earlier this month and Watson still hopes to return to the league after leaving the Denver Broncos in 2017.

The NFL hopes more overseas players can make it to the league and there’s now a clear pathway via the NFL Academy, which opened in London last year and will launch an online recruitment process in May to find its next intake of student athletes.

Becoming a draft prospect would be an emotional rollercoaster, but it’ll be worth it for a shot at living the NFL fairytale.

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